Theater archives

Dolls and Demons


Can this frenzied group dashing madly in all directions, shouting and hurling life-size plastic dolls, really be Susan Marshall’s dancers? Her previous works have tended toward the introspective and subdued, but in The Descent Beckons, opening Tuesday at the Joyce, she lets loose. Seven performers and dozens of inflatable figures explore dark themes and difficult questions.

“It’s an absolute explosion, barely controlled. I wanted to do something that had a rawer feeling, that was less controlled, more on the edge,” Marshall remarks. An exploration of New Year’s rituals was her point of departure. “There’s a creation of chaos before reestablishing order, and also a purging of a community’s demons and evil spirits.”

Obie winner Lisa Kron performs a text developed collaboratively with Marshall and the company. “We needed a guide to lead us through this journey,” Marshall explains. “How do we celebrate our rituals today? We watch a big show, with an MC. She starts out on the outside of the group, and gradually gets drawn in. The idea also came from not wanting to take this too seriously; we needed to keep it fun. That was one of the main purposes: loosening of taboos, the breaking of a social order.”

As for those dolls,”they are part of the cast; the piece would be nothing without them.” She incorporates them as effigies, alter egos, a subordinate class. “They remind us of that violence we constantly have to guard against.”